In the Beginning…
As a youth, I was one of the many who could not gain weight if he tried. My goal was to gain lean mass; however, I couldn’t even gain body fat back in the high school days. I was very skinny, and being so light was not helpful for my efforts to play baseball and basketball in high school. With a high center of gravity and not much body weight for my height, my body was not really designed for these semi-contact sports; it did not take much of a shove for me to go flying…which is why I took up high jumping. Being light and skinny was plus in high jumping.
Some 25 years later, I am no longer high jumping, or playing baseball and basketball. The worries of not gaining weight are no longer an issue. Well, that is not exactly true. If I am not careful now, I can easily gain body fat… gaining lean mass is a bit more difficult.
So, in my mid-forties, my situation has reversed. Now I wish to keep weight off; that is, fat weight, of course. Granted, due to my small bone structure and tall height, I can maintain an appearance of leanness; however, this also means that 5 pounds of body fat for me can be the equivalent of 10-20 pounds of fat for those with larger frames. So, my fatness situation is really no different than that of someone who is more obviously overweight.
Why We Need to Battle the Bulge
In our youth, gaining muscle mass and/or dropping fat mass is really more of a vanity thing for most people. As adults, we should view reducing fat mass as a major health concern. We now know that extra fat mass represents a reservoir of chronic inflammation. Space constraints do not permit a review of the biochemical mediators released by adipose tissue; however, here is a list of some of the mediators released in high amounts as fat mass increases: plasminogen activator inhibitor, angiotensinogen, resistin, leptin, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor (TNF); and there is reduced release of an anti-inflammatory substance called adiponectin.1,2
We should be aware that visceral adipose tissue releases 2-3 times more IL-6 compared to subcutaneous adipose tissue.1 The liver responds to IL-6 by releasing C-reactive protein, which is thought to be a sensitive marker for cardiovascular disease4 and, likely, other inflammation-driven conditions such as cancer.5
From a practical perspective, if our body mass index is above normal, we are likely to have a problem with inflammation. If we can grab too much fat around our waists, we are likely to have a problem with inflammation. Is your waistline bigger than when you were in college? If yes, you are likely to be inflamed…and you may have no symptoms, which is a bit scary. It is likely that we can have subclinical, chronic inflammation for years, and not know it until a disease, like cancer or heart disease, strikes us down.
Some Tips for Losing Bulge
The fix for this adiposity-driven inflammation is straightforward. We must eat less, and exercise more… what a shocker. In particular, we have to fight off eating late at night; this is the deathblow for most of us. Every night, I battle the desire to eat, which is often associated with a surprising lack of hunger.
For meals, focus on fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, nuts; and, if you desire, a starchy carbohydrate, have a red or sweet potato. Avoid all trans fats. For sautéing foods, use coconut oil; and for salad dressing, use extra virgin olive oil. Butter can also be consumed in moderation without fear.
Eat until you start to feel less hungry or slightly full, then stop eating. You will find that you will begin to eat less food. And, when we eat less, there is a chance to reduce important fiber and nutrient intake; there is almost no way around this. In short, we are not designed to be sedentary. We are supposed to be active all day and, therefore, burning extra calories all day, which means we should be eating more. However, because we are sedentary, we need to eat less. To make up for the lack of calorie/nutrient intake, I suggest that we all take a fiber supplement, such as psyllium, and also supplement a multivitamin/mineral, magnesium, EPA/DHA, coenzyme Q10, and anti-inflammatory botanicals, such as ginger, turmeric, and garlic.
Dr. Seaman is the Clinical Chiropractic Consultant for Anabolic Laboratories, one of the first supplement manufacturers to service the chiropractic profession. He is on the postgraduate faculties of several chiropractic colleges, providing nutrition seminars that focus on the needs of the chiropractic patient. Dr. Seaman can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].
1. Axelsson J, Heimburger O, Lindholm B, Stenvinkel P. Adipose tissue and its relation to inflammation: The role of adipokines. J Ren Nutr 2005; 15(1):131-6
2. Lyon CJ, Law RE, Hsueh WA. Minireview: adiposity, inflammation, and atherogenesis. Endocrinology. 2003; 144(6):2195-200
3. Das UN. Is obesity an inflammatory condition? Nutrition 2001; 17:953-66
4. Yudkin JS, et al. C-reactive protein in healthy subjects: associations with obesity, insulin resistance, and endothelial dysfunction. Art Thromb Vas Biol 1999; 19:972-78
5. Wieland A, Kerbl R, Berghold A, Schwinger W, Mann G, Urban C. C-reactive protein (CRP) as tumor marker in pediatric and adolescent patients with Hodgkin disease. Med Pediatr Oncol 2003; 41(1):21-5.